Casela Park Pair Guilty

Mon, Sep 27, 2010

Betting News

A potentially ground breaking ruling today from the Disciplinary Panel that investigated the running and riding of Casela Park at Newcastle on 4th August this year. The full published findings are worth reading and digesting. The headlines are stark and significant.

  • Jockey Jason Behan and trainer Eamon Tyrell found in breach of Rule (B)58 and B(59)
  • Panel concludes that the ride amounted to “deliberately preventing a horse from winning”
  • Decision on penalty to follow once Panel have received representations on penalty from both parties

The crucial line here, for me at any rate, is the middle one. The way the rules are currently framed ‘deliberately preventing a horse from winning’ carries the biggest potential penalties. It’s a judgement that stewards and panels are loathe to come to lightly because of the weight of the punishment that it can trigger. Both trainer and jockeys could be looking at very substantial disqualifications from British racing with, one would assume, requests made that such penalties are enforced elsewhere too.

The other significant factor in this case is the lack of betting information needed to support the Panel’s findings. I’ve long argued that, admirable though Betfair’s cooperation has been in many cases, no sporting authority should rely on such information to reach verdicts on its own rules and on its own terms.

This judgement shows a willingness to bring the full weight of the rule book to bear based solely on what is happening out on the course. Examples as obvious and unsophisticated as the Casela Park case are rare but such a ruling will spell out loud and clear the BHA’s willingness to pursue the toughest sanctions against those who seek to corrupt the sport. All trainers and jockeys are being told here that if they stop horses, for whatever reason, they can and will be brought to book even in the absence of a ‘smoking gun’ audit trail.

I maintain that the rules need to be looked at in the light of the fact that these people were allowed to run the same horse days after the Newcastle race. That made a mockery of the second race and destroyed it as a potential betting event.

It would be churlish to dwell on that small shortcoming, which I’m sure will be addressed anyway.

In what’s been a rough few weeks for the BHA in many regards this judgement is to be welcomed not just in its own right but for the message it sends to participants in the sport and to punters. Hats off.

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31 Responses to “Casela Park Pair Guilty”

  1. fawwon Says:

    Sean you have really opened my eyes to this issue of who is monitoring betting patterns. The last Panorama expose gave the impression that Betfair had some sort of an integrity team constantly checking patterns and liaising with the BHA. Is this not happening?

    If there are people earning a few good livings laying only certain yards, owners or jockeys doe Betfair produce exception reports and give them to the BHA?

    How did Tony Culhane’s in laws get caught out?

  2. seanboyce Says:

    Fawwon, there was no betting element to the stopping of Casela Park. What pleased me about the judgement was the way in which this showed the BHA is willing to act on rides themselves without looking for the back up of betting evidence.
    Betfair clearly does monitor activity. I would imagine they use human monitoring and also software to analyse activity and look for patterns. The Findlay case showed it doesn’t always work and that obviously it won’t spot every transgression. What that case also showed though is that when things are spotted they do get passed on to the BHA.
    I think Betfair deserves credit for the number of cases they have helped to work on with the BHA and their willingness to participate in this way. No other exchanges have offered similar assistance as far as I know and bookmakers’ record in this dept is historically dreadful. Of course bookmakers have a priority to take care of themselves as regards corruption whereas, we hope, the exchange priority is to look after all of us as customers.
    I also maintain, as all readers of my blog will know, that no sport should be in the position of relying on a corporation to help them police their sport. Corporations will always (especially once floated) act in the best interests of what adds value for shareholders.

  3. fawwon Says:

    Betfair must have known about Findlay for ages. He had become their highest profile client. They were using him at every juncture to promote themselves.

    As it stands neither Betfair nor Findlay have stated whether Gullible Gordon was the only case of Harry laying one of his mother’s horses!

  4. seanboyce Says:

    I think that it’s crystal clear that Betfair handed over to the BHA the example that they thought was in breach of the rules. It caused an absolute s***storm for all concerned so I don’t see any evidence of BF covering up for one of their clients at all.
    Harry F has said on a number of ocassions that he’s placed a number of lays in error.
    I have misgivings about the principle of relying on commercial organisations when it comes to integrity and policing. I do think though, as I’ve said elsewhere on the blog, that the BHA got the Findlay case about right in the end. It’s clear that the case wouldn’t have come to light without Betfair’s assistance.

  5. fawwon Says:

    Would it not be easier if all Betfair clients were obliged to inform the Exchange of which horses they have an interest in.

    Betfair could obtain ownership details from Weatherby and cross match against their clients. They could then search the database for instances where owners have laid their own runners. In the meantime the BHA could offer an amnesty to owners that came forward and admitted laying their own runners.

    “However, because of my exemplary relationship with the BHA and Betfair authorities, it was agreed that I could carry on laying such horses. To this day, I am still allowed to do so. (Perhaps the fact that I was over £700,000 down on my Paul Nicholls lay bets had something to do with that decision.)”

    This is far from resolved.

  6. Halfway To Nowhere Says:

    I suggested the automatic reconciliation of bettors against a database of registered owners on a thread on TRF, fawwon, and was told that such a facility already exists.

    Whether that is actually the case or not I don’t know, but it requires such a simple piece of software and any anomalous betting patterns could be identified quickly and with relative ease. The evidence such a system would produce would also be nigh-on irrefutable.

    Before the BHA start shaking down bookmakers for more money, they should look at the scandalous budget of their integrity department and make the ‘right to bet’ conditional on every bookmaker providing an anonymous live feed of their activity. Any transaction identified as suspicious could then be investigated further, detailing the company and person involved, the horse and the value of the bet.

    For a governing body that claim to be forward-thinking, the BHA really do make appalling use of resources already available to them.

  7. ken cambs Says:

    It’s always puzzled me as to why Casela Park was circling around the back of the stalls on its own for more than three minutes whilst the rest of the field remained in front. Why did Behan choose to do this and did the starter not query this isolation?

    A quote from Turfcall:
    Treacy, who saddled CASELA PARK to win twice in six starts before the five-year-old joined Tyrrell in the spring, confirmed that the gelding is a tricky sort to handle. “The horse had bolted under jockeys before I got him, I was told, and he was a very hard puller when I got him, as he bolted under every one else. He oozes ability but he has to be treated properly and I was delighted when Eamon got him, as I was told by a Curragh trainer that he would be looked after by Eamon. Having said that, I’m prepared to buy him back at the price I sold him for.”

    I realise that I’m in a small minority but I can’t help but have my doubts about this sad affair and its outcome.

    In view of the BHA legal assistance given to Findlay at his ‘unrepresented’ hearing it would be interesting to know whether the same help was afforded Behan and Tyrrell or were they just left to hang out to dry?

  8. Santiburi Says:

    Ken, I’m with you. This decision leaves me cold. I’m not sure that Findlay got BHA legal assistance but am happy to stand corrected. I thought he was ‘given’ legal assistance by ‘friends’. I wish those same ‘friends’ has been in the Casela Park hearing.
    As a comment from @jamesaknight suggested on Twitter earlier today: “would have cost Tyrell + Behan £18k to get legal representation apparently (re Casela Park ride). Lambs to the BHA slaughter”. That was followed up by another comment from the same tweeter: “when BHA start nailing some of the highest profile connections in the game (who routinely stop horses 2 set up gambles) then I’ll be impressed”.
    I’d have been inclined to have replaced the ‘when’ with ‘if’ and been a little bit more circumspect with the insinuation about connections ‘routinely’ stopping their charges but it does seem to me that the BHA has gone for a ‘victory’ at any cost. Sham justice IMHO.

  9. Halfway To Nowhere Says:

    So until the BHA have ‘gone after’ more high profile connections, the lesser-known names should be able to do as they please without any fear of prosecution?

    Give me a break.

    The Casela Park case was rightly investigated by the BHA, and jockey and trainer rightly found guilty. The wider implications of the BHA’s ineptitude are irrelevant, with a plea of ‘don’t pick on me, I’m only little’ no defence for blatant and apparently unashamed cheating.

  10. Santiburi Says:

    HTN, my concern is about the acceptability of a court where the defendants have no proper representation. I have an opinion about the case but that’s not significant. The BHA will fall down another dark hole if there’s an appeal where legal representation is present and the verdict is turned around again. A higher profile set of connections in the same circumstances would have had legal representation and if the result had been the same then I’d be content. The BHA to my mind rarely operates fairly and that has to change.

  11. Halfway To Nowhere Says:

    From Paul Struthers, in response to a query regarding the pair’s lack of legal representation:

    “We only found out on the Monday before the hearing (20th Sept) that they weren’t going to be represented, as up until that point they had been and were going to be at the hearing.”

    Seems to me that they knew their fate and didn’t want to be billed for being found guilty.

  12. Santiburi Says:

    HTN, being a cynic and a BHA critic, I hope it was because they’re part of a plot to appeal; be represented and try to get the judgement turned around. I am afraid I can’t take Struthers seriously so thanks for the update but my view hasn’t changed.

  13. ken cambs Says:

    Hi Santiburi, great to see that you’re still on the scene.

    ……The Authority strongly advised Mr Findlay to be legally represented at the hearing, particularly bearing in mind the published range of penalty and “entry point”. Mr Findlay chose not to be legally represented.

    The Authority’s case was presented by the Head of Compliance and Licensing, Oliver Codrington. However he also gave some assistance to Mr Findlay as a matter of good practice, drawing numerous mitigating factors to the attention of the Panel which the Authority considered that a representative for Mr. Findlay might make.

    I understand the panel had access to different camera angles though the ATR race replay is fairly comprehensive in that it’s clear, to me anyway, as to how the horse was ridden but it still doesn’t explain the lack of motive.

    I don’t necessarily agree that a Musselburgh ‘touch’ was on the agenda, simply because within the space of a couple of days there are a number of risky factors that might conceivably have happened. Apart from variable weather conditions, a possible depleted field and cramped odds, bookmakers being wary of Irish horses regularly pocketing the loot, Casela Park itself could quite easily have suffered ill-effects from the Newcastle race. If the horse was primed to win and land a huge coup, Newcastle would have been the day.

    So, the Panel summise that there was a motive yet are unable to provide evidence of same. I wonder if their failure to prove the intent behind the ‘incident’ might possibly have some bearing on the punishment.

    I reckon it should be incumbent upon the Panel for each of them to sit aboard Casela Park and re-enact the race. I know who my money wouldn’t be on.

  14. Santiburi Says:

    Ken, thanks for the background on the Findlay hearing and I’m still pretty much aligned with your view on the Casela Park situation. Clearly, I haven’t seen the race from all the angles that may have been available to the Stewards and the Panel. However, as a number of people commented shortly after the furore much as you have, there’s no obvious motive for stopping the horse and so that must favour the defendants. Do they still have the right to appeal?

  15. ken cambs Says:

    They have until “close of business” this Friday to make submissions to the Panel with regard to the likely penalties to be imposed.

    I don’t know what is expected of them but perhaps, for example, a full and frank confession, their personal circumstances and the ramnifications of being fined and banned from their professions, any other mitigating factors.

    What would happen if say Behan suddenly announced to the Panel that he had a long-standing grievance with Tyrell and had purposely stopped the horse in order to effect some sort of pay-back? At least that way, it might allow Tyrell to be declared innocent of all charges and allowed to continue training.

    In a situation like this where there is no known motive should not the owner be brought into the loop and be considered a party to the alleged offence? Then we might get to the bottom of the matter, if, in fact there is one to begin with.

  16. fawwon Says:

    Halfway. I read that the UK Borders Agency couldn’t synchronise their databases with Interpol!

    What odds that the database analysts at the BHA Integrity Dept. are of mediocre talents and handsomely paid?

    Anyways if they ran the queries thre wouldn’t be any owners left to supply runners for 0-60’s and lingfield claimers.

  17. Santiburi Says:

    Ken, I find it really hard to be objective about this case now as, for my sins, I’ve owned a couple of rogue horses and finding a jockey who would give them a ride took many experiments. Twice, in the heat of the moment, I called two separate senior jockeys all the names under the sun for appearing to not give the horses the ride they needed, despite being well briefed by the trainer, but on re-watching videos of those races times and times again could see that I was most likely in the wrong.
    Horses can be really highly strung and not that consistent: even the better bred ones. Add in the skill (or otherwise) of the trainer and jockey: the weather, the going, the antics of the crowd and almost anything can happen and often does.
    The worst ride I ever experienced by any jockey in any code was by a man who has been a champion jock more than once. He’d never ridden our horse before. The horse had won its two previous races: both times in terrestrial TV races so the form was there for everyone to see.
    The horse had to be held up; allowed to settle and never be hit behind. It was only ever going to be a potentially near top class handicapper but had a fantastic stride and was ‘bred for the job’.
    It was favourite for Channel 4’s main race of the day and was pushed into the lead before it had gone a furlong. Race over in my mind!
    The jockey did sort of settle the horse halfway through the race but then started to hit him behind with 3 to go. By the last, the horse had got back to the front but was spent. The jockey went for everything and the horse, for the first and only time in his life, hit the deck. Thankfully, he wasn’t injured. At the time, I had whispered under my breath a hope that the jockey was at least bruised!
    The jockey came in and said nothing. I asked him for a comment and got a one word response of ‘ungenuine’.
    Now, did the jockey somehow get a message to ‘punting friends’ to lay our horse? I don’t think so.
    Was the jockey so arrogant that he knew better than the connections? I still feel that’s the case as we placed the horse to win two of his next four or five races with my favoured junior jock on board.
    To the outside world, did it look like a change of tactics had not worked or could it have looked more sinister than that? Well, if there had been a clear drift then yes.
    However, based on how I view the Casela Park incident, as the song goes: ‘it could have been me”. Well, not quite as I was neither the trainer nor jockey but the horse was ridden so badly yet ‘expected’ that someone could have chosen to look into the riding of the horse. I don’t say this is the Casela Park scenario but it looks like it to me. Tyrell and Behan are such easy scapegoats. Their being found ‘guilty’ (sic) will cover up the reality that racing, like a number of other sports, is hard to police if you use amateurs as the police.
    Racing is a professional sport and is only able to be a professional sport because of its ties with betting. Horses, particularly thoroughbred flat horses are notoriously difficult to train on occasions and hard to predict.
    The larger trainers have the real advantage of being able to have the same jockey(ies) ride their horses in training as ride them in races. The jockey(ies) get to know the horses and so, casting aside the possibility that they might therefore use their knowledge for nefarious purposes in collusion with the trainer, they’re able to get more consistency from their charges. The lesser trainers rarely get the same jockey on their horses two races in a row and very rarely at home so allowances have to be made for the occasional inexplicable run; especially if there is no complementary evidence to suggest that something is deliberately amiss.
    I guess we’ll see in a couple of days how things turn out.

  18. seanboyce Says:

    A few points. Some are describing the Panel as a ‘court’. It is not. It is not required to produce ‘motives’ nor is it required to establish ‘guilt’ to ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standards. It is assembled in order to establish whether or not licensed individuals have breached a particular rule or rules. In this case relating to the riding of the horse. The Panel was clearly satisfied that the rules had been breached. All sports are entitled to do this.
    As for the ‘amateur’ line. Stewards on the day included a professional full time stipe. The stewards themselves may not be paid but in my experience are nearly always experienced horsemen and women. Most have worked with horses in one field of another for much of their lives and some have competed in equestrian sport at a high standard. These are not people who are ignorant of the characteristics of the species and the breed. They have also dealt with the enforcement of racing’s rules over a period of many years and have received significant amounts of training.
    What’s more, huge areas of our lives are regulated and to a large extent run by unpaid but highly skilled and dedicated amateurs. Every school in the land has a governing body. These bodies are chaired and manned by unpaid volunteers. They have responsibility for oversight of the schools standards and legal duties, in many cases they are responsible for the recruitment and management of the school’s leaders, they are responsible for staff and pupil wellbeing, safety and achievement. In many schools (depending on the type) the buck stops with the Governing Body for all significant issues. These are all ‘amateurs’ but good governors are well trained, dedicated, motivated and add huge value ( I would say all this as I’m a chair for one school GB and a gov on another!).
    The same is true of much of local politics and law as well as education.
    It is remarkable that those who ‘haven’t seen all the angles’ (an absolute minimum requirement before questioning the competence and the integrity of those involved in the process imvho), are so exercised by what has happened in this case.
    The local stewards – who did see all the angles – deemed it to be a breach of the rules. A decision that is taken with full understanding of how serious the charge is and of the implications for those charged and with no consideration of the name and status of those individuals involved. Was Stoute spared the judgement of the stewards at Windsor a couple of years ago? Or Henderson? Or Fallon? This ‘little guy gets picked on’ theory has no foundation in fact whatever.
    This kickstarts a process which leads to the authority assembling a fully independent panel to review all the assembled evidence. The right of appeal is offered as is advice on legal representation.
    I would agree that Casela Park is the tip of the iceberg. Similarly speed cameras will only catch a tiny percentage of us who regularly exceed the speed limit. Doesn’t mean we scrap speed limits.
    The process in this case, unless anyone can demonstrate otherwise, has worked perfectly well as far as I can see.
    To query the judgement, professionalism and motives of those involved in the process, with no justification other than speculation and prejudice is -imvho- unfair and unmerited.

  19. Santiburi Says:

    Sean, all valid points and I certainly respect your opinion. However, I don’t have the same opinion as you and, in particular, as regards the Stewards in this country.
    Of the sample I’ve met, you’re right that these are, as a rule, lovers of equestrian sport; often riders, owners, breeders. However, their training is insufficient IMHO. Their understanding of the context in which racing operates is shallow and they are wont to prejudices of various types. A broad generalisation I know: possibly born of that chip on my shoulder for not having been “brung up proper” but I say things as I find them.
    My forays into some of the inner sanctums of Racing were eye opening and not in a positive sense; hence my cynicism about the authorities and particularly the Stewards. That said, that’s my last word on this particular topic other than to hope we see a reasonable judgement tomorrow.

  20. fawwon Says:

    As far as I know Darren Williams has not been relicensed. Is there anything to stop the BHA simply refusing to license people who have been banned. they could simply raise the bar as regards integrity.

    In the case of Karl Burke they could say thanks but no thanks ply your trade elsewhere. Does anyone think that they will relicense Feral Lynch?

  21. Halfway To Nowhere Says:

    They wouldn’t dare, fawwon.

    Awarding Fergal Lynch a license would be like B&Q taking on Fred West as a landscaping consultant.

  22. fawwon Says:

    I was surprised that they relicensed Culhane?

  23. Santiburi Says:

    So, life bans are OK then? No forgiveness after time served? Bizarre. I hope our justice system doesn’t go the same way as you’d advocate for a sport!

  24. fawwon Says:

    Problem is that the likes of Lynch, Culhane, Burke, Miles Rodgers and the rest of em by their actions damage the credibility of racing as a betting medium. That costs jobs at the end of the day. It’s not asking a lot to say if you have been convicted of an integrity offence then you don’t come back ever.

    Santi- The punishments need to discourage others.

  25. Halfway To Nowhere Says:

    In some cases life bans clearly aren’t appropriate, Santiburi. I think it’s ridiculous, for instance, that Dwain Chambers is prevented from competing in the Olympics. Putting the fact that he’s never going to win anything to one side, he’s served the time considered appropriate for his crime, repaid £200,000 of appearance fees and prize money, and will be subject to random, on-the-spot drug testing as a matter of course. And, not that it excuses his actions, he was cheating to win.

    Compare that with Fergal Lynch or Tony Culhane, who cheated to lose and risked other people’s money and other people’s livelihoods for the sake of personal gain. The chances of the former being re-licensed in this country are slim if only to save face, but I’d be outraged – as I was when Graham Bradley was temporarily licensed to ride in the ‘legends’ race recently – if he were to appear on a British racecourse again. In any capacity.

    Severe that may seem, but he’s essentially a criminal who has been fortunate enough to avoid public prosecution having committed an act equivalent to fraud. He was fined an amount he couldn’t afford to pay, but escaped having to reimburse every single bettor he consented to steal from. And that’s what it was; theft. He had a choice and made his decision. Are we supposed to accept that he’s a reformed character after a period of inactivity?

    Perhaps we should, but it isn’t going to happen. Suppose he were to be caught again – how Culhane hasn’t is beyond me – how would the BHA’s ‘forgive and try to forget’ approach work then? They’d be…well…lynched.

    In cases where innocent people are being unwittingly defrauded the only stance has to be zero tolerance; especially when the perpetrators avoid serving a prison sentence.

  26. Santiburi Says:

    I’d like to think that if there really were sufficient evidence to prove fraud and/or theft then there would be a criminal prosecution. Why should corruption in sport be outside the common law? It shouldn’t be and I don’t believe it is.
    I don’t know enough about any of the cases being referenced as I’ve always treated it as noise. It would be very naive of me to think there’s no corruption inside a sport that’s so intrinsically tied to betting but I’m bored of the ‘aggrieved punter moans’ as if everybody is being defrauded every day by corrupt connections. They’re not.
    UK racing obviously operates at the top around the Pattern but, for the main, the daily fodder operates around a handicap system. Argue to change that. Argue to define a better handicap system. Find a different sport to bet on if you don’t like the system.
    Racing has problems way bigger than the perceived level of corruption. At a purely personal level, as someone who watches a lot of racing and has bet regularly for close on 40 years, I still maintain that the form book as I read it has never been in better shape. Maybe all the corruption is away from the races in which I have an interest.

  27. fawwon Says:

    Just because the City of London Police made a dog’s dinner of prosecuting Miles Rodgers and Lynch dosen’t negate the fact that Lynch has now confessed to stopping. Did you not see the Panorama episode where they played Lynch’s phone calls to Rodgers. Do you honestly believe that Lynch & Rodgers are the only ones?

    How do you explain some of the insane drifters ridden by the likes of Top Cat?

  28. Santiburi Says:

    fawwon, count how many horses race each day. Multiple that by the number of race days in a year. Take the resulting number and divide it into the number of bad rides you see or get told about and you’ll get a very small number indeed.
    Yes, we need to get rid of the bad guys. Yes, we need as effective a ‘police force’ in the sport as it can afford. It’s not something though that’s going to keep me awake because, as I’ve said repeatedly, I see the sport being in a much better shape today as regards the consistency of form than it’s ever been in my life.
    I am therefore going to concentrate on reading the form book, watching the AW through the winter and betting on it. It gives me pleasure and improves my bank balance fortunately.

  29. fawwon Says:

    Santi – How do you read the formbook when there is a Top Cat drifter and Barney has one in the race? Curley’s exploits have nothing at all to do with the formbook. The fact that Curley can do as he pleases says everything about the policing. Do you believe that he could do this in Oz or HK?

    The majority of Irish racing and British AW through the winter are frankly ridiculous in a modern context. How anyone can find the formbook useful when so many horses are blatantly “not off” beggars belief.

  30. Santiburi Says:

    fawwon, especially since the advent of Guaranteed Prices, I’ve had good fortune with ‘drifters’ as more than sufficient attempts at finding a horse that can’t win go astray. Work on it: it’s provides quite a nice edge.
    As regards, a race with a Curley horse in it, I only bother looking if I really can’t find bets for the day elsewhere as he’s a lot brighter than me. He is one of the shrewdest trainers there is and I don’t believe for a minute that he ever asks a jockey to ’stop’ one of his horses. He knows better than anyone when his horses are ready to win in their grade and so why try and beat him! I think Curley would hold his own anywhere in the world that has a handicapping system. There are quite a few other trainers in the UK who have similar skills and, actually, it’s not too hard to spot when their charges might have a chance if you study the form book with something like the same mindset as them.
    Personally, going back to the year after the AW came to be, I’ve been fortunate enough to find trainer trends; sire and dam trends; and other form lines that mean that this is the primary medium in which I should bet.
    The AW may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It may not be the spectacle of Cheltenham or Ascot but it suits my needs. I stopped watching racing for the spectacle 10+ years ago. My family still like a day out at the races but I go for the fun of being with my family. I follow racing now as a betting medium only and that’s a remote past time: i.e. I rarely if ever go to the track to bet any more.
    If I ever bet on 2yos (which I did almost to the exclusion of any other betting for a period when I went racing most days) then things would be different. However, I could probably count on one hand the number of bets on 2yos I’ve had this summer so I don’t need to be at the track any more to check on the wellbeing of my form picks.

  31. fawwon Says:

    Santi- You got me great fishing mate

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